The Key to Success on Campus: Staying F.O.C.U.S.E.D.

Published: October 31, 2006

As a director of public safety, I have developed and adapted the F.O.C.U.S.E.D. acronym to serve as a daily reminder of our common goal – student success. It helps to keep me on the same page as my fellow student services colleagues:

  F: Friendly (enjoy your work and enjoy working with others)

  O: Open (be accessible and approachable)

  C: Caring (it’s what you say and what you do that counts)

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  U: Understanding (be fair and consistent)

  S: Student-centered (student success is a core value and be involved)

  E: Educate (educate yourself and others at every opportunity)

  D: Dedicated (be a dedicated employee and boss)

Friendly: For those of us who have learned to smile in all of our daily comings and goings, we are certain to find many daily returns in our smile investment. For the most part, a genuine smile will beget another genuine smile.

The other aspect of being friendly is that we should find true enjoyment in working with others. If we genuinely like working with others, this will help instill teamwork and collaboration, resulting in greater productivity and enjoyment.

    Open: Many of us have espoused an open-door policy for years. But before this policy can be truly effective, we must have an open mind. This will make us personally approachable.

We must remember to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and be able to hear what others have to say without passing judgment. As a bonus, we might even learn something new ourselves!

Caring: This may sound elementary, but our actions speak louder than words. Our largest challenge is in building a departmental climate of trust and commitment. Our staff doesn’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

Understanding: In crisis intervention terms, instructors have spoken for years on the ability to obtain a win/win resolution. I like to take this one step further and espouse a philosophy of a fair/fair resolution strategy. Many times we are not able to find a win/win resolution to a campus issue due to the very nature of our position. However, if we can instill a sense of fairness in the process, most people will accept the outcome.

The other critical aspect of being understanding is to be consistent in your words and actions. Our staff should know what we stand for and should hear a consistent message of how we recognize, reward, coach and discipline.

Student-Centered: First, we must communicate our vision to the campus community in everything we do. I believe we must also take the time necessary to network and actively listen to the concerns of the campus community, specifically the students. This will provide opportunities to meet campus constituents in a casual, nonconfrontational manner. It will also keep the department in the loop.

Students must also know they will be treated with dignity and respect when they interact with campus safety staff. It is important to show genuine concern for the problems and issues that challenge your campus community, even if they are not directly related to the campus law enforcement or security operation.

Educate: The most successful people and the most effective communicators are those dedicated to teaching and developing others. This can be achieved even though a director or officer might not be in front of a chalkboard or a PowerPoint™ projector.

Dedicated: We must demonstrate our dedication to our campus. The time we arrive at work each day; when we go home; our flexibility with the times when we must meet with our evening and night shift personnel; our efforts to communicate with departmental or community members – these are all factors that measure our dedication to the department or college.

If your goal is to become genuinely immersed in your campus life, keep this acronym nearby to be reminded of exactly what we need to do to achieve this goal. Education is our business, and our success is measured in large part by the success of our students. Stay connected and stay F.O.C.U.S.E.D.!

Lee Struble is the Director of Public Safety at Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester, N.Y,. and has worked in the campus safety field for more than 24 years. He is also President of WSM Trainers and Consultants and can be reached at

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the November/December 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to

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